Bosnia and Herzegovina

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In Bosnia, a neighbor means more than a relative. In Bosnia, having coffee with your neighbor is a ritual. ~ Dragan Obrenović
Bosnia is under my skin. It's the place you cannot leave behind. ~ Paddy Ashdown

Bosnia and Herzegovina is a country in Southeastern Europe located on the Balkan Peninsula. Sarajevo is the capital and largest city. In the past it has been controlled by the Ottoman Empire, Austria-Hungary, and Yugoslavia before gaining independence in the Yugoslav Wars of the 1990s. It is a decentralized federation with power divided between the two autonomous regional governments of the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina, which contains mostly Bosnians and Croats, and the Republika Srpska, which contains mostly Bosnian Serbs. The country has been a candidate for NATO membership since 2006 and European Union membership since 2022.

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I am Bosnian by nationality... [T]he fact that my mother gave birth to me at a hospital in Belgrade does not mean anything. ~ Jovan Divjak


  • Bosnia is under my skin. It's the place you cannot leave behind. I was obsessed by the nightmare of it all; there was this sense of guilt, and an anger that has become something much deeper over these last years.
  • My second job has been to try to use my power to create institutions of a modern state that could enter the European Union, and there was very little time. The door was closing, and I wanted to get Bosnia through before it shut.






  • Why did this particular political murder have such vast consequences? Part of the answer is that when the Archduke was shot he was driving along one of the world's great fault lines - the fateful historical border between the West and the East, the Occident and the Orient. From the fifteenth century until the late nineteenth, Bosnia and neighbouring Herzegovina had been parts of the Ottoman Empire. Many of their inhabitants had converted to Islam, the better to serve their Turkish rulers and to reap the full benefits of Ottoman rule. But Bosnia was never an entirely Muslim country; there were also substantial populations of Orthodox Serbs and Catholic Croats, to say nothing of Vlachs, Germans, Jews and Gypsies. To one Victorian visitor, the River Sava between Bosnia and Habsburg Croatia seemed to be the dividing line between Europe and Asia. Others saw the Miljacka, which runs through Sarajevo itself, as the border; or the Drina, which runs through Visegrad to the east. In truth, with the protracted decline of Ottoman power, the whole of Bosnia became a contested frontier. In 1908 Austria-Hungary had formally annexed Bosnia, over which it had enjoyed de facto control since the Congress of Berlin in 1878. When Francis Ferdinand visited Sarajevo just six years later, he was touring a new imperial acquisition, in which considerable sums had been invested on new roads, railways and schools, but where thousands of Austro-Hungarian troops still had to be stationed to maintain order.
    • Niall Ferguson, The War of the World: Twentieth-Century Conflict and the Descent of the West (2006), p. 74
  • Milosevic realized that he could not rule Yugoslavia. Instead, he decided to build a powerful Serbia that would include all Serbs living in the other republics. To that end, he launched a war against Croatia, destroying frontier cities, occupying territory and supporting the large block of Serbs in the Krajina region. The biggest problem was Bosnia, which declared its independence in March 1992. It had a hopelessly mixed population of Serbs, Croatians, and Moslems but Milosevic wanted to dominate it. Rather than sending in the army, he operated behind the scenes by organizing and supplying paramilitary units who embarked on a programme of 'ethnic cleansing', which involved expelling or killing Moslems and establishing concentration camps. Hundreds of thousands fled as the Serbs occupied 70 per cent of the country and mercilessly shelled its capital Sarajevo. The violence culminated in the massacre of 6000 men and boys in the Moslem enclave of Srebrenica in July 1995. The Bosnian war turned the West against the Serbs. The UN imposed an economic blockade, the costs of the war led to hyperinflation, and the Serbian economy faced collapse. Despite constant demonstrations against his policies, and erratic attempts to achieve stability - most notably choosing a rich American Yugoslav as Prime Minister - Milosevic was re-elected in 1992, with the help of vote rigging. He realized it was time to make peace - the situation was growing desperate. By 1995 NATO was backing the Moslems and Croats who pushed the Serbs out of Krajina and much of Bosnia. Milosevic ditched the Bosnian Serbs and went to Dayton in Ohio for discussions that produced an agreement to divide Bosnia among the three communities. He was praised abroad as a peacemaker, but the Serbs saw the agreement as a defeat.
    • Clive Foss, The Tyrants: 2,500 Years of Absolute Power and Corruption (2006), p. 205






  • How will you prevent everyone from being killed in Bosnia and Herzegovina?
    • Radovan Karadžić, speaking at the Bosnian parliament, on the night of 14–15 October 1991, in a charged atmosphere in a debate whether to declare the republic "sovereign", which would mean that republic's laws would take precedence over Yugoslav ones. (The term "Muslim people" refers to the people known as Bosniaks.


  • In Bosnia, a neighbor means more than a relative. In Bosnia, having coffee with your neighbor is a ritual... [I]n Bosnia, if neighbors can again shake hands, if our children can again play games together, and if they have the right to a chance... It is too late for me now, but for the children living in Bosnia now, it's not too late... The spirit of this unhappiness still hovers over our Bosnian hills, which have suffered so much.




  • In early October 1995, combined European and American pressure finally resulted in a cease-fire, and on 1 November 1995, the leading figures—Tudjman, Milošević, and Izetbegović—met at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Dayton, Ohio, under the forceful negotiating of Assistant U.S. Secretary of State Richard Holbrooke and U.S. Secretary of State Warren Christopher. After more than two weeks, the parties finally came to a settlement. As a result of the Dayton Agreement, Bosnia remained in existence, its borders intact, its formal name now the Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina. But internally, it comprised two separate entities, a Serb one, the Republika Srpska, and a Muslim-Croat one, the Federation of Bosnia-Herzegovina. According to the constitution determined at Dayton, each entity is granted the right to establish “special parallel relationships” with neighboring states, and each was also a signatory to major aspects of the agreement. The central state is very weak, with major powers left to localities and to the Federation and the Republika Srpska. These were all major concession to Serbs, granting them in fact some of the powers, if not all the territory, for which Serb nationalists had fought. In the words of the political scientists Burg and Shoup, “the constitution institutionalizes the ethnic division of the state.”
    • Eric D. Weitz, A Century of Genocide (2018), p. 220